Here is a real story about what happened when I once started a new job:
I arrived at my new job on the first day at 8:30am, feeling fairly nervous. Nobody specifically asked me to show up at that time, but I thought I’d rather be slightly early than turn up late. I headed up to reception, but there was nobody there and I didn’t really know where to go. I tried the mobile number of my contact, but he didn’t answer.
So, I went out to a nearby cafe to get a coffee and waited a little while. At 9:00am I went back up to reception to see if anybody was around. This time I met the building receptionist who tried to call my contact. No luck. By coincidence, somebody came out of the lift, to speak to the receptionist. She asked him to show me around because he happened to be from my company.
He did, and finally I met somebody who I was going to be working with who introduced me to others. It’s obvious he didn’t realise I was starting today. At around 10am, my contact finally showed up to greet me.
The story above was my experience of starting a new role. Not only was there no real process, nobody really knew I was turning up or what to do.
I’m not too sensitive with this type of thing, so it wasn’t enough to send me running from the office, but it was definitely an awkward process to go through as a new team member on my first day.
Why onboarding a new team member really matters
When you bring in a new team member, first impressions matter. From my experience above, these were my first impressions:
- People don’t even know or care that I am starting today
- The workplace seems disorganised.
Most people find starting a new job stressful. As such, this is a time where you should be showing your best side to your new team member. Otherwise the first impression can be magnified by the stress of the situation, resulting in a very uncomfortable first day for everybody.
A new team member is not just the responsibility of your HR department
As a manager, it is easy to become complacent when a new team member starts. Often leaders will rely on HR teams to run the process, putting little additional thought into it.
However, it is such an important first touch point with a new team member that it should not be taken lightly.
Important things to do for your new team member
1. Communication with your new team member before they start.
Tell your new starter how to get to your office, when to arrive and who to talk to. Before they start. This makes the process a whole lot more relaxing for a new person.
2. Make sure your new team member has a place to work.
There is nothing quite as bad on your first day as learning that you don’t have a desk, computer or other equipment to use. This makes a new team member feel like an afterthought. Like they weren’t worth being prepared for. Make sure the equipment and work space they need to do their job is ready before they start.
3. Tell everyone in your team that a new team member is starting.
It helps if everyone in your team knows that there will be a new team member commencing on a given day. That way if something unexpected happens, they will be able to take over the process for you if necessary and nobody will be surprised.
4. Introduce the new team member to everyone in your team, and relevant colleagues.
The faster everybody knows who is who, the less awkward and more welcoming it is for your new team member. Some people are naturally talkative and will help ease the onboarding process, but others like a formal introduction to get them started.
5. Show the new team member the facilities.
Is there a lunch room, shower or company gym? Make sure your new team member knows about them and about how to activate alarms or other important aspects. Don’t leave it up to the new team member to find out this information for themselves, make it easy for them.
6. Have lunch with your new starter on the first day.
Don’t leave your new starter to fend for themselves, offer to take them to lunch. Invite a few others in your team to attend too, to make it a little more social. Paying for lunch is also a nice touch. If you aren’t able to have lunch with your new team member, organise in advance for a colleague to do it instead.
7. Have a few meetings to teach the new team member about their job and the team.
I know, it is tempting to say “read these documents” to learn about how things work, but that is boring. Have a few meetings with your new team member to explain how your team works and what they will need to do. It breaks up the monotony of reading documents.
8. Give your new team member time to get settled.
It can be good to let your new team member ease into their role. Some leaders like to throw people in the “deep end” but for me, this is an excuse for lazy onboarding. A mixture of real work early on, combined with a proper induction is important to make a new starter feel comfortable.
Too many induction or learning activities will be boring, while throwing a new starter straight into the work with no proper introduction may be stressful. Find a happy medium where they can ease into the work.
It isn’t rocket science, but as with many aspects of leadership, it just takes some preparation and forethought to give your new team member a reasonable experience on their first day. Not only does it make you and your team seem organised and prepared, it also makes the new starter feel welcome and comfortable.
Tell me your onboarding horror stories in the comments below!